How do I check my coding notice?
If you get money from an occupational pension, private pension or retirement annuity, the pension payer deducts tax from your pension under the Pay As You Earn (PAYE) system. HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) issue a PAYE code to the pension payer to tell them how much tax to take off.
The following information does not apply to the state pension, which is paid gross (that is, without deduction of tax at source – no tax is taken off it before it is paid to you).
How does PAYE work?
There is general information on how PAYE works for both employees and pensioners in the employment section. On this page, we look at some pensioner-specific issues.
What happens when I start to receive a pension?
When you start to receive a pension for the first time, HMRC are not able to work out your tax code until they have received some information from either you or your pension provider.
You may have a form P45 to hand to your pension provider if, for example, you have just stopped working and immediately afterwards start to take a pension.
But if you do not have a form P45 to hand, your pension provider should send details of your new pension direct to HMRC via the electronic PAYE system. As a pensioner, you will not see this yourself, as the pension company submits the information directly to HMRC.
What are payslips?
For pension income, you generally do not get a payslip (a notification of how much you are being paid and tax deductions) for each pension payment. However, you should get some form of notification if there is any change to the amount of pension payment, for example, if your tax code changes.
What happens at the tax year end?
As long as you are receiving a pension at 5 April, the end of the tax year, your pension provider will give you an ‘end of year certificate’ – form P60 or its equivalent – by 31 May. This might be given to you electronically, rather than on paper. This shows the total amount paid in the tax year, the tax deducted and the final tax code in operation. You should check that the PAYE code shown on the form is correct.
Each time your pension payer pays you, they tell HMRC how much they have paid you and how much tax they have taken off. After the end of the tax year, HMRC check that the tax deducted is the right amount, according to their calculations, based on the information they hold. If it is, no further action is likely to be needed. If their calculations show that the right tax has not been deducted, HMRC will contact you.
What is an emergency tax code?
Our employment section explains when an emergency tax code may be applied. This tends to occur when you start a new job.
Emergency codes can also be used when taxing money taken out of pensions under the flexible pensions rules. This might be the case if you take money out in lump sums (rather than as a pension income), either regularly or irregularly, or if you take the whole amount of a pension pot as a lump sum. You may need to watch out as you may not pay the right tax at the right time. Read our separate guidance on this.
Who gets a PAYE coding notice?
There is general information for employees and pensioners about who gets a PAYE coding notice in the employment section. You should just get a single coding notice for all of your sources of income that are taxed under PAYE.
HMRC usually send this to you in February for the tax year starting on the next 6 April. If you do not receive one, contact HMRC to ask for a copy. Your codes should also be available to view online in your personal tax account.
Pensioners may tend to get coding notices more often than employees – for example, if you start to draw a new source of pension income to which PAYE is applied for the first time.
How do I check my PAYE coding notice?
There is information for employees and pensioners on how to check your PAYE coding notice in the employment section.
You should check your PAYE code and what tax your pension payer is taking off your income. You may receive a paper 'coding notice' (also known as a form P2) through the post; this explains your PAYE code(s). It will usually look like this:
PAYE coding notice by LITRG
If you do not understand your PAYE code or think it might be wrong, you should query it with HMRC. You can find details of how to contact HMRC on GOV.UK.
Pensioners might receive more than one pension from the same pension provider. If this is the case, you should check that you have a code number for each pension – they might have different PAYE scheme reference numbers, for instance. The codes should be contained on the same coding notice. If you need clarification, as above, contact HMRC.
Notes explaining each item in the tax code calculation
The coding notice provides a note for every item in the tax code calculation. These notes are intended to help you to check your tax code, but the way the tax rules work means this is not always straightforward. There is more information in the employment section.
Gift Aid contributions are made net of basic rate tax. For example, if you make an £80 net Gift Aid donation (meaning you actually pay £80, for example, in cash or electronically) then the charity will reclaim from HMRC the basic rate tax paid on that donation, which in this case will be £20 (as £100 less 20% basic rate tax is £80). In effect, the charity has received a £100 donation from you out of your pre-tax income.
If you only pay tax at the UK basic rate, then there is nothing further to be done (although see below if you also claim married couple’s allowance) and no adjustment to your tax code is required.
If you pay tax at the UK higher rate (40%), for example, then making the same £80 donation to the charity under Gift Aid will mean that the charity reclaims £20 from HMRC as before (meaning it gets a total of £100). However, as you will have paid £40 (£100 at 40%) tax on the gross amount, you are entitled to a further £20 relief.
Strictly, this is done by increasing the amount of income taxed at the basic rate by extending your basic rate band. However, tax relief can be given in-year through your tax code, by increasing the personal allowance – in this case by £50 (meaning that £50 of income is tax-free rather than taxed at 40%, saving tax of £20). If you are a UK higher rate taxpayer you may see this adjustment in your tax code.
Here is an example to help you work out what your tax should be from your tax code. There are more examples in the employment section.
Tom: monthly paid pension – working out tax from code number
Tom, who is not a Scottish taxpayer, receives an occupational pension of £14,300 a year before any tax is taken off. His pension is paid monthly and his code number for 2023/24 is 205L.
This means Tom has a tax-free amount of allowances of £205 x 10 or £2,050.
Take off tax-free amount of allowances
Pension on which Tom pays tax
£12,250 @ 20% (basic rate)
So the tax to be paid by Tom during 2023/24 is £2,450.
The tax he will pay each month will be £2,450 divided by 12 = £204.17.
The code of 205L means that his personal allowance of £12,570 for 2023/24 has been reduced by £10,520. This is likely to be because his state pension is being taxed using this PAYE code. Tom should check that £10,520 is the amount of state pension he expects to receive in 2023/24. He can do this by checking it against the weekly amount he will be getting from April 2022, which the Department for Work and Pensions should have notified him of by letter around March 2022. See also What amount of state pension is taxable?
Where can I find more information?
You may be able to take money out flexibly from some kinds of pension, or the whole of your pension as a lump sum. In that case, you should read our guide to flexible pensions.
For information on how tax on your state pension is collected, also look at How is my tax collected?.
Sometimes people face particular problems with their tax code on retirement. We have more information on the page Tax code problems on retirement.